Blog: Watch your language

Does it matter whether we define the thing we do as 'events', 'experiential activations' or 'experience marketing', asks George P Johnson's Gareth Dimelow.

Blog: Watch your language by George P Johnson's Gareth Dimelow
Blog: Watch your language by George P Johnson's Gareth Dimelow

I was lucky enough to be invited to chair a panel discussion about the events and live experience industry, as part of the SohoCreate festival this month. I was joined by David Zolkwer, Debs Armstrong and Cat Botibol, and together we spent a lively hour discussing the inspiration, perspiration and frustration that makes ours such a uniquely challenging and rewarding industry.

To kick things off, I asked the group to talk through the distinction between ‘event’ and ‘experience’. Opinions varied, but generally it was agreed that the event is the moment in time that we’re tasked with delivering, whereas the experience is usually the fusion of interactivity and content that we create to entertain and inform our audiences.

Of course, our life is made up of experiences, from the coffee we buy on our way to work, to the frustration of trying to find a parking space at the supermarket. So context clearly also has a part to play.

Now, I’m sure this all sounds like a needless exercise in semantics. It’s 2015, after all, so does it really matter whether we define the thing we do as ‘events,’ ‘experiential activations’ or ‘experience marketing?’

In a word, yes. Yes it does.

The fact that there are so many different terms and definitions relating to our industry, suggests that we’re lacking a universal language. There’s no common vernacular to connect us all, and that means that misunderstandings can occur.

Social, viral, content, digital, engagement – I’ve listened to extensive debates about the meaning of all these words, specifically within the context of our industry. And at the end of it, no one seems any clearer.

Arriving at some kind of consensus for the way we talk about our work helps us define our respective points of difference, as well as helping our clients to brief us more effectively.

It’s not for me to arbitrate the language we use. This is just a call for us all to start thinking about consistency. And where no consensus exists, being sure to define our terms along the way.

Who’s with me?


Gareth Dimelow is head of strategy and planning at agency George P Johnson.

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